MKSS - Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Rajasthan

Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan is a grassroots organization that was formed in 1990, working in rural Rajasthan. Its objective was to use modes of struggle and constructive action for changing the lives of its primary constituents -- the rural poor. In the period leading up to its formation it had taken up issues of re-distribution of land and minimum wages. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) spearheaded the right to information movement in Rajasthan - and subsequently, throughout India. MKSS famously used the right to information as tool to draw attention to the underpayment of daily wage earners and farmers on government projects, and more generally, to expose corruption in government expenditure. Initially, MKSS lobbied government to obtain information such as muster rolls (employment and payment records) and bills and vouchers relating to purchase and transportation of materials.
To understand the reason why the demand for minimum wages and the subsequent demand for access to records came about, it is important to try and understand the geographical as well as the socio-political setup of the area where the MKSS works. In demanding a law for the "right to information" the people were establishing their desire to be part of the democratic framework in which they would be given a fair hearing and their views would be taken into consideration while forming policies. The goal was to establish the concept of "participatory democracy," to make the people who ruled understand that the common man now wanted his or her share in governance. The strategies that were adopted to achieve these goals by the MKSS were many. These included sit-ins, rallies, as well as lobbying with government. Culture and innovative ways in communicating the ideas were also used through music, puppets, street theater etc. Usually, in a public hearing the MKSS first obtains the records pertaining to the public works carried out by the Village Council in the last five years. Once the documents are accessed, the Sangathan then takes the records to each village where the work is said to have been executed and then testimonies are sought from the villagers and the laborers who were employed on the site. The MKSS also does site verifications with the laborers and villagers, and then on the day of the public hearing in front of the general assembly of the villagers the details are read out and testimonies sought. There is also the concept of having a panel of people who are invited to the public hearings, including lawyers, journalists, academicians and government officials. The panel is also allowed to cross- examine and ask for clarifications, and with the administration present attempts are made to try and bring about corrective measures for the irregularities identified. The malpractices usually uncovered are purchase overbilling, sale overbilling, fake labor rolls, under payment of wages and in some cases ghost works (works that are there on record but do not exist).
MKSS Contact detail:
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Village - Devdungri
Post - Barar
District Rajsamand-313341
Rajasthan
Tel: 91-2909-243254
Tele Fax: 91-2909-250180
Mobile: 09414007305
E-Mail: arunaroy@jpl.dot.net.in
mkssrajasthan@yahoo.com